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Jason Davis' blogs from 2017

Function over form: NASA's Space Launch System gets a new paint job

Jason Davis • August 11, 2017

Last week, NASA revealed an updated design for the Space Launch System, featuring black-and-white checkerboards streaking down each of the vehicle's solid rocket boosters.

LightSail 2 updates: Prox-1 mission changes, new launch date

Jason Davis • July 21, 2017

LightSail 2 and Prox-1 are expected to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy no earlier than April 30, 2018.

Congress gives NASA's planetary science division some love (and a Mars orbiter)

Jason Davis • July 19, 2017

The House of Representatives proposed $2.1 billion for NASA's planetary science budget, which would be an all-time high. Part of the increase would be used to start work on a new reconnaissance and communications orbiter.

Meet Scott Pace, the National Space Council's new executive secretary

Jason Davis • July 14, 2017

Pace will help develop policies that affect the future of NASA. Here's a guide to this influential new member of the Trump administration.

Back to Mercury! Europe and Japan's BepiColombo mission moves closer to launch

Jason Davis • July 14, 2017

Next year, a pair of probes head to Mercury to answer outstanding questions about our innermost planet, as well as the formation of the solar system.

President Trump formed a national space council. Now it needs a NASA administrator

Jason Davis • July 03, 2017

Tomorrow, NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot will have served longer than any other temporary head of NASA without having a successor nominated to fill the position.

Revisiting the ice giants: NASA study considers Uranus and Neptune missions

Jason Davis • June 21, 2017

Only one spacecraft has ever visited Uranus and Neptune: Voyager 2, in the late 1980s. A new NASA report explores the reasons to go back, and what type of mission might take us there.

Did a Planetary Society citizen scientist help find one of Earth’s biggest impact craters?

Jason Davis • June 12, 2017

Scientists have found what appears to be a 250-kilometer-wide crater near the Falkland Islands. Is it ground zero for Earth's largest-ever extinction event?

Despite setbacks, SpaceX continues to gain momentum

Jason Davis • June 09, 2017

SpaceX lost rockets in both 2015 and 2016. But an analysis of Falcon 9 launch data shows the company continues to gain momentum, while making giant strides forward in reusability.

LightSail 2 partner spacecraft ships safely to New Mexico

Jason Davis • June 02, 2017

Georgia Tech's Prox-1 spacecraft has arrived at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where it will be integrated with LightSail 2. The SmallSats will ride to orbit on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in December 2017 or later.

Parker Solar Probe: NASA renames upcoming mission to touch the Sun

Jason Davis • May 31, 2017

NASA's Parker Solar Probe spacecraft will repeatedly dive through the Sun's corona, giving scientists their first-ever up-close look at our star.

NASA's 2018 budget request is here, and we broke down the details

Jason Davis • May 23, 2017

The White House's 2018 federal budget request includes $19.1 billion for NASA, which is a 3 percent drop from 2017. We broke down the details.

Here's what you need to know about the Electron rocket, which is set to launch from New Zealand

Jason Davis • May 19, 2017

Rocket Lab's Electron, a light-lift launcher for small satellites, is ready to make its debut test flight from a peninsula in New Zealand.

Orbital ATK discusses Antares rocket's future, confirms new NASA cargo mission

Jason Davis • May 19, 2017

Company officials say they have no plans to retire Antares, which has secured its first mission order under the second round of NASA's commercial cargo flights, known as CRS-2.

The anatomy of a delay: Here's a timeline of twists and turns for NASA's SLS and Orion programs

Jason Davis • May 15, 2017

The Space Launch System and Orion won't fly until 2019, and NASA is sticking with its original plan not to include astronauts for the maiden mission. Here is a timeline of some of the programs' major twists and turns over the years.

Does NASA get its money's worth for Antares-Cygnus flights?

Jason Davis • May 11, 2017

Despite being funded to fill a perceived gap in U.S. launch capabilities, Orbital ATK's Antares rocket has yet to find a customer besides NASA. Did the space agency get its money's worth?

Old documents shine new light on NASA's plan to send a solar sail to Halley's Comet

Jason Davis • May 04, 2017

The Planetary Society's LightSail project has roots in a late-1970s NASA plan to send a giant solar sail spacecraft to Halley's Comet. Now, a cache of archival documents adds new depth to the audacious plan.

The first Space Launch System flight will probably be delayed

Jason Davis • April 26, 2017

NASA's new heavy lift rocket is currently scheduled to launch the Orion spacecraft on a test flight next year. But all signs are pointing to a probable delay.

This weekend, it's the beginning of the end for Cassini

Jason Davis • April 19, 2017

NASA's long-lived Cassini spacecraft is about to buzz Titan for the final time, putting it on course for a spectacular mission finale that concludes in September.

Our asteroid hunters are trying to save the world. Here’s what they’ve been up to

Jason Davis • April 17, 2017

Here are some recent reports from our NEO Shoemaker Grant program asteroid observers, who are quite literally trying to save the world.

Expedition 50 had a fun and good ISS crew

Jason Davis • April 10, 2017

I believe Expedition 50 had a fun and good ISS crew. I base this declaration solely on the moments they shared on social media. This logic is completely bulletproof and there's no point trying to prove otherwise.

NASA unveiled new plans for getting humans to Mars, and hardly anyone noticed

Jason Davis • April 07, 2017

NASA revealed its most concrete plan yet for sending humans back into deep space, centered around a small lunar space station and a reusable transport ship to carry astronauts to Mars and back.

Your hypothetical questions, answered: SpaceX prepares to refly rocket booster

Jason Davis • March 28, 2017

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster recovered by a drone ship last year will be reflown later this week, marking what could be a new milestone in the quest for affordable spaceflight.

A repeat of the space shuttle's bold test flight? NASA considers crew aboard first SLS mission

Jason Davis • March 23, 2017

NASA has only flown astronauts aboard a rocket's first flight once, when John Young and Bob Crippen took space shuttle Columbia on the boldest test flight in history. What are the risks of repeating the feat for SLS?

Signed, sealed but not delivered: LightSail 2 awaits ship date

Jason Davis • March 20, 2017

Following a pre-ship review at Planetary Society headquarters, LightSail 2 is ready to be integrated with its Prox-1 partner spacecraft. The final shipping schedule, however, has yet to be determined.

Trump's first budget proposal is out. Here's how NASA fared

Jason Davis • March 16, 2017

NASA escaped a large-scale budget slash, and planetary science fared well. ARM is canceled, the Moon-versus-Mars debate is not mentioned, and Earth science stands to lose some missions.

Cassini, with only a half-year to go at Saturn, just keeps dropping awesome images

Jason Davis • March 09, 2017

Our latest roundup of Cassini goodies from Saturn includes Pan, a ravioli-shaped moon that orbits inside the planet's ring system.

This company launches balloons to the edge of space. Will the business float?

Jason Davis • March 08, 2017

World View, a self-described “stratospheric exploration” company, recently unveiled its new headquarters in Tucson, Arizona.

SpaceX plans to send tourists around the Moon in 2018. Here's why that may not happen

Jason Davis • March 03, 2017

Two private citizens are paying SpaceX for a 2018 flight around the Moon. Is that timeline realistic?

NASA's audacious Europa missions are getting closer to reality

Jason Davis • February 21, 2017

Today, NASA announced progress on a spacecraft that would assess whether Jupiter's Moon Europa is habitable, and earlier this month, an agency-sponsored science team released a report on a separate lander mission that would directly search for signs of life.

Everything you need to know about tomorrow's historic SpaceX launch

Jason Davis • February 17, 2017

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from a former space shuttle launch pad tomorrow morning. Here's a rundown of everything you need to know about the historic event.

Solar sailing in Japan: 10 questions for LightSail engineer Barbara Plante

Jason Davis • February 13, 2017

Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye and LightSail systems engineer Barbara Plante recently traveled to Japan for a solar sailing symposium. Our Q&A with Plante discusses everything from CubeSat attitude control systems to robotic giraffes in Tokyo.

Want NASA to pick your space mission proposal? Two winning scientists share some tips

Jason Davis • February 09, 2017

NASA is currently accepting proposals for its next New Frontiers-class planetary science mission. What does the agency look for in a winning proposal? The two scientists behind the ORISIS-REx and Psyche missions share some tips.

Let's talk about this whole Moon vs. Mars thing for human spaceflight

Jason Davis • January 26, 2017

NASA's current human spaceflight goal is Mars, but the Trump administration could change that to the Moon. Is that a good idea? Here's an in-depth look at the differences in science gain, the arguments for and against a potential commercial market, and whether or not the technological and operational challenges required to reach the Moon apply to Mars.

Here's what history has to say about when Trump's NASA administrator will take office

Jason Davis • January 19, 2017

This Friday, Charles Bolden resigns as NASA administrator after a stint of 2,744 days. Robert Lightfoot, the agency's highest-ranking civil servant, will take over as acting admin. How long will Lightfoot serve? If history serves as a guide, it could be a while.

Want to build on our LightSail work? Here are some resources to get started

Jason Davis • January 13, 2017

The Planetary Society is launching a new webpage showcasing LightSail academic papers, schematics, parts and imagery.

SpaceX is ready to fly rockets again. An expert talks about the reason a Falcon 9 blew up last year

Jason Davis • January 10, 2017

SpaceX says they fixed a problem with the helium pressurization system that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket last year. The company pushes the boundaries of rocket science, creating an occasional jaw-dropping fireball in the process. But will the risk-reward equation change when SpaceX starts flying astronauts?

NASA is visiting 8 asteroids in 8 years. Here are 8 things to know about the missions

Jason Davis • January 04, 2017

NASA announced two new asteroid missions today named Lucy and Psyche that will fill important gaps in our understanding of how the solar system was formed. Here are eight things to know about the two missions.

astronaut on Phobos
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